Going Places: Students Gather to Celebrate an Education in Primary Care

Spring signals new beginnings, making it the perfect time to honor Harvard Medical School’s graduating students who will be pursuing careers in primary care and family medicine. On April 22, 2016, graduating students, staff, and others affiliated with the Center for Primary Care gathered in Gordon Hall to celebrate their successes and toast the future.

Although the attendees all plan to continue along the path of primary care, they arrived at this decision in vastly different ways. Some, like Diana Wohler, had always envisioned themselves in the field. “I knew I wanted to do primary care, but I wasn’t sure what population I should serve,” she explained. “When I learned more about family medicine, I knew I had found my group of people.” Wohler, who will pursue her residency in family medicine at Brown University, said she was initially drawn to HMS because of its burgeoning primary care program. In fact, her HMS education has coincided with the Center’s growth: She has been part of the school’s Student Leadership Committee (SLC) for the past several years, seeing its membership rise and more than double during that time.

Yet other students had nearly passed on the opportunity to attend HMS. “I almost didn’t apply because I believed that HMS wasn’t primary care-friendly,” admitted Kate Majzoub Perez. After meeting with the Center’s co-directors, Russ Phillips, MD, and Andy Ellner, MD, however, she was impressed—and excited to get involved. Perez, who is headed to Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center for her residency, has co-led the SLC and credits the school’s primary care program with her success. “It’s been amazing to see the changes that have unfolded here over the last four years,” she said. “My involvement with the Center has defined my medical school experience, and I’m very grateful for it.”

Primary care wasn’t originally even a consideration for other students. “I didn’t have a strong interest in primary care until my third year,” said Brad Diephius, an MD/MBA candidate. It was then that a courtship in primary care got him excited about the field, culminating in a role on the SLC. He is now pursuing a career in primary care, beginning with a residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Primary Care: Past, Present, and Future

Such stories were heartening to guests at the event, including Richard Feinbloom, MD, former director of the School’s family medicine program and a key figure in establishing the field at HMS some fifty years ago. “I just stopped by to see what’s happening,” he joked. “But,” he added in all seriousness, “it’s really very impressive to see how far we’ve come.”

As the event wound down, Perez and her SLC co-leader, Lisa Rotenstein, presented two SLC awards for mentorship and appreciation to Dr. Phillips and to Eric Fillinger, the Center’s program coordinator for education. The awards recognize faculty members who go above and beyond in supporting students involved in primary care. In turn, Dr. Ellner thanked the SLC and graduating students. “It’s a great privilege for us to interact with students and empower them,” he said. “This is a celebration, not an end to our relationship, which we hope will only deepen over time.”